Spain put siesta on the map. The country sleeps in and stays out late. It’s culture is synonymous with easy going and relaxed vibes. Unlike North America, you will be hard pressed to find local restaurants and stores open before 9am, as some Spaniards are just going to bed merely hours before.
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For this adventure, Amanda and I used points and miles using our CapitalOne Venutre cards to get us across the Atlantic. We planned a two week adventure through seven cities: Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, Ronda, Granada and Malaga.
Our AmericanAirlines/Iberia flight was right on time and with no hiccups. We left O’hare International Airport around mid-day in August, August 31st to be exact.
The red-eye flight landed in Lisbon, Portugal, the next morning as we had to connect to Barcelona forty seven minutes later.
Arriving in Barcelona Spain
We ended up getting into Barcelona right around noon, went through customs rather quickly and grabbed the first bus out of the airport to the city center. The bus ride cost us only 5.50€, much cheaper than a taxi or private shuttle. We only waited a few minutes at the downstairs bus station. The bus system is very valuable for your Barcelona itinerary.
Traveler Tip: Use public transit to save big on transportation costs
Our first order of business was to see if we could drop off our luggage at our hotel, Ciutat de Barcelona. The three star hotel was situated in a great location and the price was just right. Expect to pay 80-120 € per night for accommodation. The hotel agreed to hold our luggage until the check-in time so we could start exploring. At this point, we were starving, so what did we do…we went and grabbed some gelato! Our first of many during the trip.
As we strolled down the narrow and winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, we knew our time in Barcelona Spain was going to be special. The city had a great sense of vibrancy, full of local shops, restaurants and mom and pop convenient stores. Cathedrals, architecture, street art and shops, oh my! Even the doors leading up to upstairs apartments were a work of art. I quickly got in the habit of photography the one’s that I thought were really cool.
Fun Fact: The beautiful neighborhood known as the Gothic Quarter is so called because it used to be the Roman village and thus has some remnants of its glorious past. These days because of the constant modernization it is easy to spot an ancient building right next to one built in the 90s.
Time had past by so fast walking the streets of Barcelona that it was already time for check-in. We made a stop back at Ciutat de Barcelona, kicked-back and relaxed for a few minutes, before heading to dinner. Amanda had always dreamed of coming to Spain and I really didn’t know much about it. I specifically remember asking her “So, why do you want to go to Spain, exactly”. I wasn’t asking because I had never thought about traveling to Spain, but I was asking to specifically see what sparked her interest in the country. Well, let me tell you, our first meal had me in love with her answer.
Wow, was the food incredible! Amanda had said that Spain was a foodie-lover paradise, aside from the culture, architecture and lovely beaches of course. There was nothing better at this moment than to be in another country and enjoying a great meal. After divulging, we called it quits for the night to catch up on sleep from our jet lag.
The Gothic Quarter
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because I believe in it. The early bird always gets the worm. The next morning we rose a little after sunrise and hit the Gothic Quarter again. We were on the way to the infamous St. Joseph La Boqueria Market for some breakfast. However, not before stopping at a few places on the way.
The Gothic Quarter and nearby El Born neighborhoods are some of the oldest in Spain. They have been the heart of civilization in Barcelona for centuries. When the Romans built what was then known as Barcino, they erected walls around the city which back then occupied just a small part of what is now the Gothic Quarter. Later, during the 12th century, the walls of the city were extended to contain the Gothic Quarter and nearby El Born, but stopped at the Ramblas.
No stroll through the Gothic Quarter would be complete without visiting the Cathedral of Barcelona and making your way to the rooftop.
Now that we had a couple of stops under our belt, it was finally time to head to the market. The market was beautiful. In a way, it was a little bit of organized chaos. It was filled with locals and tourists alike. Some hunting for a bargain on breakfast and some just browsing before the lunch rush. It was mid-morning now and after about 30 minutes of looking at all of our options, we settled on a couple of bacon and cheesy-biscuit croissants, a chicken empanada and a fruit smoothie.
Belly’s full and spirits up, we headed over to Las Rambas. Holy cow, there was a ton of people. It was quite overwhelming really. From doing my research and planning, I knew main street was a tourist trap. There is a ton of shopping, restaurants and people watching a plenty. We spent most of our time here fighting the crowd as everybody seemed to be going in the opposite direction. It was just way too crowded in our opinion so we didn’t stop and continued on our way. If you can look past all the people, the street is beautiful, as trees are lined up and down on either side of the road.
You can’t miss Antoni Gaudi‘s architecture when in Barcelona, literally and figuratively. Casa Batlló is so irregular that there are few straight lines on the facade and much of it is decorated with a colorful mosaic, known as trencadís, made of broken ceramic tiles. Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction due to its radical design that broke all the bylaws of the city. In 1906, the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings of the year. Take that city council!
Seemingly right across the street, is Casa Milá. Also referred to as “the stone quarry” due to its unusual rough-hewn appearance, Casa Milá is another one of Barcelona’s most popular modernist buildings. UNESCO recognized this building as World Heritage in 1984.
The façade is a varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world.
The entire building, both interior and exterior are worthy of admiration, but one of its most iconic spaces is it’s spectacular roof terrace. In it, you’ll see a series of sculpted and decorated skylights and staircase exits, chimneys, and vents. Typically these are unsightly elements required for the building’s functionality, but here they are a piece of art.
From the basement to the terrace, Casa Milá is a total work of art. I highly recommend taking a visit or signing up for a tour below!
Now seemed the perfect time to stop for some much needed tacos and margaritas at Taquerías Tamarindo! So glad that we gave this small storefront a try and it did not disappoint. I’d recommend trying all three of the taco options and paring it with a cold Moritz beer or margarita. Restaurants with air conditioning are a huge plus because it’s still hot in Barcelona in early September. Like, I mean, we were sweating-through-our-shirts-hot, walking the twenty-three thousand something steps. Talk about getting your steps in…
One of my favorite stops on the day’s walking tour was Hotel Colón. If you didn’t know it existed, you would never run into it. Thank you Instagram. The Sangria was great but the view was what made it special for me. Not only was it one of my favorite stops, but it produced one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.
I’m not really sure if it was the heat, the drinks or all the walking but we decided to head to the park for some relaxation time.
Ciutadella Park is just not any park though, its magnificent. Parks back home in the states have not but a pond, play center, picnic table, or the occasional basketball court, etc. But this, this was a park! As the afternoon sun started going down, the crowds started to diminish. After all, it was siesta time in España and most locals were resting for the night to come. We used this to our advantage and took in Ciutadella Park at slow and enjoyable pace.
The last spot we stopped at for the day was Arc de Triomf de Barcelona. We arrived just before the sunset and we were not alone. The sunset and the arc brought out the crowds in droves and everybody was there to watch the sun set behind it. Personally, we loved the arc and the architecture that went into it. It was massive, majestic and extraordinary. The fact that golden hour was upon us, made it even more special as the lighting was just right. We even had time for some funny photos before we enjoyed the last few moments of daylight.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, as its only going to get better from here
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